All the questions you’re sick of answering if you don’t play sport

No, I don’t want to join your 5-a-side


Although the world is more inclusive than it ever has been, there’s still a much-maligned minority who struggle to be understood: those who don’t enjoy sport.

In modern society, there are those who are normal and those who can’t kick a ball.

This is what the latter have to go through on a day-to-day basis.

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‘Why don’t you like it?’

Why do I need a reason? I’ve never asked you why you’re not into beekeeping, or debated whether it was nature or nurture which stopped you wanting to play the cello. As far as I’m concerned, you don’t really need a reason to dislike flinging a ball around a patch of sodden grass in the middle of winter.

If I did need one, though, you could pick one of the following: it’s boring, it’s tiresome, people laugh at me when I try to do it, and I spend so much of my free time smoking and napping that I can’t run 100 yards without passing out.

‘Why don’t you just give it a go?’

Oh trust me, I have. Ever since my dad first forced me to join him watching Luton Town play Stoke, I’ve been conditioned to believe that sport is an important part of being a socially-functioning human being. But alas, I just can’t bring myself to enjoy it.

For us non-sporting folk, even the PE lessons in which we tried really hard would end in some variation of us being aggressively tackled, easily scored against or humiliated in increasingly new and inventive ways – and all because God cursed us with a lack of hand-eye coordination.

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‘Can’t you just watch?’

Yes, I could just watch. But the fact is, I’d rather watch someone forcefully remove my fingernails than have to sit through 90 minute of men booting a plastic sack around a field while other, fatter men yell at them.

‘There must be one sport you’re good at?’

Nope. Not a single one. I’m not even allowed to play darts because I’ve injured so many of the regulars down my local. My pool shot is so weak that the white rarely reaches another ball, and when I try to shoot a hoop the basketball flops out of my hands like sad ice cream from a dropped cone.

Seriously, I can’t even get anything below a 12-over-par in sodding mini-golf.

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‘What did you do at school?’

I’m glad you asked! I spent my lunchtimes sitting inside alone, watching everyone else have fun through a rain-spattered window.

‘Do you not like watching it then?’

Yeah, you could say that. Sport to a non-believer just doesn’t make sense – it’s like there’s a part of our brains missing which is meant to find delight in people running fast and doing things with their legs.

To us, all sport just seems like a never-ending charade of a ball going this way, then that way, then this way, then that way, intermittently broken up by people clapping or a bald man blowing a whistle.

‘Do you want to join our 5-a-side team?’

I’ve been working with you for six months now, Tom: what could make you possibly think that I want to give up my Wednesday nights to be slide-tackled on a patch of astroturf by you and fucking Charlie from Accounting?

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‘Can’t you just go in goal?’

Great idea – take the most self-conscious, knowingly terrible sportsman in the room and put them in the position where it’s most easy to mess it all up for everyone.

People who play football or hockey can breeze into goal and do alright, but that’s not the case for us squibs. I once had a goal scored between my legs from the halfway line by a 12-year-old kid. I was 18.

You’ll pretend our hapless attempts at saving terrible shots don’t annoy you, but it’s fairly obvious: it’s hard to be all sunshine-and-smiles when the liability in the goalie gloves has already conceded eight by half time.

‘Do you want to be referee then?’

What do you think? The only thing worse than making me play a game which I don’t understand is making me make crucial decisions in a game which I don’t understand. 

I can’t tell the difference between a penalty and a free kick, so there’s not a hope in hell you’re going to get me to grasp the offside rule.

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‘How can you not understand (insert convoluted sporting rule)?’

“Offside” has been explained to you a thousand times and you still don’t get it. You don’t know what “love” is – in tennis, and in life – and you’ve spent half your life sitting stoically in a pub as your friends, your brother and your dad try to explain sin-bins, birdies and LBWs.

There’s one thing they’ll never understand, and that’s that you’ll never understand.

‘What do you even do for fun?’

There are things other than sport, you know. My hobbies include… Drinking? Reading?

Pretty much every quantifiable character-building exploit is a sport, so describing how you spend your free time if not playing tennis or polo makes your job applications infallibly dull.

Does watching TV count as a hobby?